This is hands down my favorite cake/cupcake. I can finish two or three cupcakes or a full slice (not sliver) of cake anytime without batting an eyelash. I first came upon Red Velvet Cake when I moved to Atlanta almost seven (7) years ago while browsing through the bakery section of the grocery store on Valentine's day. I was leaning towards the carrot cake, but then, I gravitated towards the screaming-red cake, and told myself "Why Not! It' Valentine's anyway". And that is how my love affair with the cake started.
Since I started baking about four (4) years ago, I have attempted, and failed, so many times baking this (cup)cake. Countless pseudo-red velvet cupcakes ended up in the trash-- there's always something wrong with it-- too red.. or too brown..nah it's not red, but it's actually pink.. it's sunken in the middle.. it's too domed it looks like a muffin.. it's not baked enough I can taste the raw flour.. it's over-baked and dry.. it doesn't taste like red velvet, more like chocolate cake.. is this red velvet or just vanilla cake with red food color?... and so on and so forth. But, after (4) years, the cupcake goddesses are finally beaming at me. I have "perfected" my Red Velvet Cake.
The cake is moist, airy and with a good crumb. It's does not taste like vanilla or chocolate cake, it's simply and distinctly red velvet cake. The cream cheese frosting mixed with homemade meringue and vanilla beans is to die for! It's smooth,velvety and not too sweet. Then, when you layer and top the cake with the frosting, it comes together like perfection.
I hate to not share the recipe here, but I use this for all my red velvet cake orders. I will, however, share with you some tips. But, I assure you, Paula Dean's recipe is really, really good.
Always use the freshest and best quality ingredients you can find. Make sure you bring all the ingredients to room temperature. You get the best result when you use cake flour instead of all-purpose or a mixture of the two. Make sure you use the liquid food color, not the gel; you get a better color by doing so.
Do not tap the pan to remove the bubbles, you will end up with a flat and dense cake; run the spatula from end to end instead.
From experience, the more fluid the batter, the better the rise. So when I am in doubt whether to fill the cupcake pan 1/2 or 3/4 full, I use that as a rule. When the batter is fluid, it will rise better, so I fill halfway. If it has more body, I fill it 3/4 full.
Make sure to cool the cakes in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. By doing so, the cupcakes will not be deformed when you remove them from the pan. I usually put the cake in the freezer for at least an hour before I frost them, and use a pastry brush to remove the crumbs on the top and side before applying the frosting-- you don't want those red crumbs on your white frosting.. not just yet :).